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Published February 7th 2014
A town with a busy past and a more leisurely future
Mannum is a historic town on the banks of the River Murray in South Australia. It's around an hour's drive from Adelaide and is one of the favourite holiday destinations for people living in Adelaide. Active water sports such as wakeboarding, kayaking, canoeing, and water skiing are all common here, while fishing, the Mannum Waterfalls, and cruising on Mannum houseboats are also great ways to pass the time in this pleasant place.
Long Forgotten Remains of Mannum History Lie Outside the Town
This part of the River Murray has been inhabited for thousands of years, with the original occupants thriving on the rich river aquatic life before Mannum history even started. In 1840 European settlers arrived, and it wasn't long before the potential of the paddle steamer was recognised for transporting goods and farm produce on the River Murray. A shipbuilding industry developed, which in turn attracted other trades and helped Mannum become prosperous.
The Original Offices of John Shearer Farm Machinery
Although construction of a railway to Murray Bridge reduced the demand for river transport, Mannum houseboats continue to be in demand to the present day. Other local industry includes the John Shearer farm machinery factory at Mannum which opened in 1877, and still does even today under the current ownership of Horwood Bagshaw.
The signs of past prosperity are quite obvious as you walk about the town today. Some rather imposing buildings line Randell Street, the main street named after the founder of the town. The magnificent 1882 Mannum Institute building is much larger than similar buildings in Adelaide country towns, and has been used as a council chambers, a court, and a picture theatre before falling into disuse.
There are numerous other reminders of the past along Randell Street - a butcher's shopfront clad in tiles for easy cleaning, a clock dated 1854, the original dry dock used for repairing paddle steamers from 1876, and some legacies of the original Shearers' factory around the car park and public toilets.
Fortunately the former Mannum Council have recognised the heritage value of their old structures, and have fitted plaques to many describing their history.
The Friends of Mannum Walking Trails have developed three historic walks to help visitors explore Mannum history by viewing significant places and heritage buildings. I found the online map a little small and lacking a few details, so if you plan to do the walk call in at the Visitor Information Centre. You can get a paper copy of the map there, and check directions with staff before you set off.
When staying in town, Mannum accommodation on offer includes a good range of options from shacks on the river and the Mannum Caravan Park to accommodation at the Mannum Hotel. If you're staying in winter perhaps opt for the upper floor, as the river can flood very high in Mannum - but the last big flood was in 1956. It's probably the reason the Mannum pipeline to Adelaide was built, eliminating the need for a railway dam at scenic Totness Recreation Park.
Interestingly the Mannum Hotel was known as the Bogan Hotel until 1886, but it seems the word meant something quite different back then.
Hi Dave. Maybe you can write about our new (well, 7 months old now) monthly Mannum Markets. Lots of local arts and crafts, food, beautiful atmosphere right by the river with local musicians playing, etc. It's usually on the first Sunday of each month but will be on January 8th 2017 this month due to New Years Day. It's a lovely day out with lots to see!